Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Lost Book of Mormon by Avi Steinberg

This is a hard book to describe. It is mostly a personal journey. It is partly a travelogue. It is partly an investigation into The Book of Mormon.

Steinberg was fascinated by the topic and decided to enter into the book by traveling the path followed by the characters in the book. He notes that the heart of his quest was an effort to understand the difference between prophecy and fabrication.

Most of the book is about Steinberg. He tells lots of stories about his adventures, many of which have nothing to do about The Book of Mormon. I mean, did I really need to know about the pair of pants he found hanging in his hotel room closet?

Surprisingly, he also uncovers some information about the book and Smith that I had never heard before, such as the relationship of Melville to the book. He does a pretty good job of weaving the many theories about the book into his travelogue.

Steinberg is a clever writer. Even though he used some language I didn't appreciate, I found his writing captivating in a coming of age sort of way. I did enjoy reading the book, it just was not what I thought it was going to be.

Steinberg thinks The Book of Mormon is a book one should take seriously – as a work of American imagination, as a modern American novel.

I really don't know to whom I would recommend this book. Perhaps to one who appreciates the writing more than the topic about which the book is written.

Avi Steinberg is the author of Running the Books: the Adventures of An Accidental Prison Librarian, which was a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker's Culture Desk blog. His essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Salon, Paris Review Daily, and n+1. Find out more at http://avisteinberg.com/.

Nan A. Talese, 290 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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